When to bet in online poker?

Whenever you make a bet when your playing poker you need to think about the “why”,  there are only 3 reasons for betting, if your not doing it for one of the 3 reasons your doing something wrong. The 3 reasons for betting are:

  • Betting for value You figure you have the best hand and you want a worse hand to call. Value betting is the easiest way to make money, especially at low stakes. Players call far too much with weak hands (its human nature) and we make money by making the best hand and betting strong when we do have it.
  • Betting as a bluff – You have not hit the board at all and your opponent almost always has a stronger hand, you bet to represent a different subset of hands and make him fold a better hand. At low stakes you want to be bluffing less and only in good spots (See my articles on continuation betting and double barrelling) because you have less fold equity compared to when playing tight players. Betting to take down the dead money – There is money in the pot, our opponent figures not to have a strong hand a decent percentage of the time, we bet to take down the dead money. We could have the best hand or the worst hand, it doest matter, we bet because there is money already in the pot that we want to win.

Taking down the dead money is very important, often times we will have a hand such as ace high or king high on a dry board that has some form of show down value. A lot of beginner and intermediate players make a mistake of trying to get to showdown. Its important to bet in these spots to fold our our opponents equity share. So for example, We have a7 and raise pre flop on the button, our opponent calls with QJ from the big blind and the flop comes down K 5 2 rainbow. In this spot, some people may be inclined to check back but its clearly a mistake, our opponents 6 outs are an equity share and by betting we take down the dead money and fold out his equity share

Sometimes people are faced with a decision of whether they should bet or not, they argue they should check in certain spots when they have showdown value and no worse hands will call. In these spots you should often bet because your opponent will fold a high enough percentage of the time for the bet to be profitable and take down the dead money. So for example, you could a player could raise on the button and you 3-bet pocket Jacks from the small blind, your opponent calls. The flop comes down A K 4 rainbow. In this spot, if you bet, your opponent is not calling with pocket tens or pocket nines, however, your opponents range may be wide enough that by betting you will take down the pot a huge portion of the time, so you bet to take down the dead money. Betting here also makes your hand easier to play, you cant profitably check call, so your only other option is to check fold. If you decide to check you may actually allow your opponent to bet a worse hand and make you fold or hit a 2 outer with a lower pocket pair. Betting in this spot is clearly the right play!

Betting for information – Betting for information is not a reason for betting, its an effect. When we bet as value or as a bluff, our opponents action tells us some information. If we bet top pair top kicker and our opponent calls, we get information that our hand is likely still the best, if we do the same on the turn and suddenly our opponent raises us, we get more information that our hand is probably not best and then we have to re-evaluate our options.

Betting for protection – Protection is not a reason for betting, protecting your equity is the effect of betting. When we have a strong hand, say a set on a draw heavy board, we are not betting to protect our hand, or “charge draws” we are quite simply betting for value. Protection and charging draws are quite simply and effect of our value bet.

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